If you are separated, and weeks, months, or years have transpired and there is ongoing conflict associated with co-parenting and/or the parenting arrangement is in dispute (i.e. a 'custody battle' is in progress), there have likely been discussions with lawyers about having a bilateral assessment done. Perhaps one is already scheduled or you are currently in the process of having one done.
While bilateral assessments are an important and useful tool for the courts to use when determining what is best for the children, most situations in which an assessment is done do not culminate in a trial. It is estimated that in roughly 80% of the cases, a settlement is reached at some point after the assessment is completed. Since the process of doing bilateral assessments is structured for use at a trial, it is best suited for perhaps only 20% of the families to which it is applied.
In a bilateral assessment, the assessor meets several times with each parent, meets with the children, and meets with each parent and the children together. Psychological testing of the parents is typically done and visits to the home are often done as well. It is a very thorough process, and as a consequence is also very expensive, either to the family or to the government in the case of ones performed through family court services. For the family, the parents primarily, it is a difficult process because it is a one way process. The assessor generally provides little feedback as to the perceptions and conclusions that are being formed. The parent then struggles to gauge whether they have successfully conveyed what they were trying to express. In the vast amount of history and ongoing events, each parent has to selectively choose what information is important. With no feedback from the assessor, the process of choosing what information to give, how much detail, and how many examples, is a very difficult thing.
In addition to anxiously waiting to find out what the assessor's recommendations are, the family has no one available to assist them with day to day issues. When incidents occur, the assessor would often be a practical person to turn to for assistance, because of their familiarity with the family, but that would be a conflict of interest and the assessor is unable to provide assistance.
The Canadian Co-Parenting Centres can provide co-parenting coordination services before, during, and after the assessment process. Also, we believe that all of the families who go through a bilateral parenting assessment, but settle without going to trial, and some of the families who do go to trial, would be better served by a co-parenting coordination process and would avoid the expense and anguish of the assessment, because a settlement would be reached. We are so certain of this that we offer special fee agreements for families that are considering a bilateral parenting assessment. Please contact us for details.